Interview: Robert Deutz, Events Team Leader for OSM
Robert Deutz, founder of Robert Deutz Business Solutions, a software and web development company in Germany specializing in Joomla!, serves as Events Team Leader for Open Source Matters. The following interview explores his approach to organizing global gatherings in the Joomla! community that inspire passion and participation.
You were recently named Events Team Leader for OSM. Would you please describe your vision for this position?
It is important to bear in mind that Joomla! is a multi-lingual and multi-cultural community.
My first goal is to support local Joomla!Days by making it possible for people from the leadership to join in these events, to participate and listen to what is being discussed. Some countries, like Italy and Thailand, host one Joomla!Day a year, with numbers close to 1000 attendees. The last Italian Joomla!Day was in-language with simultaneous translation of the English-speaking guest speakers. These are very strong Joomla! communities who, for the most part, are quite separate from joomla.org. Local Joomla!Days are our opportunity to connect with the people in these communities.
Secondly, I would like to see more community-driven events like JandBeyond. While Joomla!Days tend to be business- and end user-oriented, JAB10 was a first time opportunity for high-level developers to come together to talk about their components, and share tips and ideas. This kind of exchange makes us all better, and there is a need for more developer-oriented events of this nature.
Thirdly, my goal is to help the local team to organize a World Conference that will be so exciting no one will want to miss it!
And last but not least, I will review our processes, making them simpler and easier where possible, as well as providing advice and guidelines to non-English-speaking people, so that they can receive instructions in their own language.
Given the success of JAB10, are there any plans to make JAB an official annual event?
What does “official” mean? I am not a fan of saying JAB10 was not an official event. We are one community, and we are putting on events. What is “bad” about an unofficial event and what is “good” about an official event? It doesn’t make sense.
Yes, JAB will definitely become an annual event. We don’t yet know when or where JAB11 will be held, but we will do it. Official or not, JAB10 had strong and significant OSM support. We as a project can jump on this running train and promote it and say it is good. That didn’t happen this time, but I'm practical. Of about 70 proposed talks, 55 of them took place, and some 50 were video-recorded. These resources are now shared on the JAB10 website. In the end it was a great event, drew lots of attendees, and stayed within budget – it was a big success. Official or unofficial, I don’t care!
What can you tell us about the Joomla! World Conference, as the community looks forward to this next global gathering?
After discussions with the organization team last week we decided to start over, and ask the right questions. Rather than focus on number of attendees and venue, let’s talk about passion! What should this world conference address? What is special about it? Why the hell should I attend? We need to create a feeling that this event can't be missed. The rest is simple. So we are still in the process of addressing these basic questions.
What ingredients are key to planning a successful event?
Most importantly you must know your audience. Plan carefully and be prepared. Something goes wrong in every event, so have a Plan B and a Plan C.
We learned some lessons planning JAB10. From the start you must say “We will do it!” Our small team had well-defined roles and responsibilities. It was hectic but everything came together from logo design to T-shirts to sponsors. All tasks were accomplished. Since everyone has his own business to run, next time we will split roles and get more people involved. Communication is important, as well, and we plan to use a newsletter to engage people and promote the next conference.
What specific challenge does the cultural diversity of our community bring to organizing events?
The challenge is always about communicating across language and cultural barriers. Straightforward expression is normal in some cultures, which can surprise people from other cultures. And it’s always worse when it comes to writing. An email beginning without a salutation may be standard for some, but feel abrupt, even rude to others. All in all, people want to get along and are friendly and helpful, and we can override these cultural barriers.
What kind of help do you need? How can people get involved?
Spreading the word about upcoming events is something everyone can do, and it is always helpful and appreciated.
Let’s all spread the word... upcoming Joomla! events are not to be missed! Thank you Robert for an insightful and informative interview!